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By Vanness You, vice president, Huawei Middle East Carrier Business Group

The telecommunications industry has thrived by envisaging the future and evolving technology. While 5G continues to grow, the industry has already made remarkable progress toward enabling the next evolution in wireless technology, 5.5G.

Huawei first proposed an outline for 5.5G in 2020, and 3GPP officially named the concept "5G-Advanced" in 2021. As an upgraded version of 5G, 5.5G features will power future industry scenarios such as the IoV, IoT, robotics and manufacturing and serve as a key driving force of the digital economy.

While 5G has been instrumental in enabling new service scenarios, applications and business models and has paved the way for unprecedented growth opportunities, there are growing demands to cater to new consumer and industry digital transformation needs. Huawei predicts that global connections will reach 200 billion by 2030, including about 100 billion wireless (cellular) connections. Only 5.5G can cater to this explosion in connected devices: it will upgrade network capabilities by 10X, support 10 Gbps experience, and enable 100 billion connections and native intelligence for numerous services. In short, 5.5G will mark a key milestone for leading towards an intelligent world.

By 2030, Wi-Fi networks will need to deliver 10 Gbit/s experiences for mid- and large-sized campuses and support intelligent operations and management. Micro and small enterprises will require Wi-Fi networks to provide ample bandwidth, premium experiences and one-stop intranet services. On the other hand, industrial internet will require a bandwidth higher than 10 Gbit/s and latency lower than one millisecond. Further, enterprises will adopt a multi-cloud strategy that requires networks to adjust routing dynamically. Driven by green development and automation, we will see 10-fold increases in network capacity, energy efficiency and O&M efficiency.

At the recent Global Mobile Broadband Forum (MBBF) 2022 in Bangkok, David Wang, Huawei Executive Director of the Board and Chairman of the ICT Infrastructure Managing Board, noted how, through concerted efforts, the industry has made significant progress and is ready to make the move to 5.5G. To hit this milestone, Wang called upon all industry players to prepare on all fronts so that the world can move faster towards the 5.5G era and eventually build a better, more intelligent world together.

Already, notable developments in the 5.5G evolution are underway. First, 5.5G standardization is on track. Second, the industry has made breakthroughs in crucial wireless technologies for 5.5G, providing wider spectrum bands, higher spectrum efficiency and Massive MIMO technology with ELAA to address millimeter wave spectral challenges. Moreover, Passive IoT technology will combine cellular networks and passive label technologies to provide low terminal prices and long coverage distances. At the same time, wireless sensing technology will provide cm-level outdoor positioning accuracy and mm-level perceptual imagining resolution.

These new technologies will form three new capability dimensions as part of 5.5G, including:

  • Uplink Centric Broadband Communication;
  • Real-Time broadband communication; and
  • Harmonized communication and sensing.

There are reasons why nations and businesses are excited by 5.5G. They will enhance the immersive user experience tenfold and expect industry digitalization to power the next wave of global economic development. The new capabilities of future 5.5G will provide a 10Gbps experience. Users will enjoy a more immersive experience in communication and can download 100 4K films simultaneously in a jiffy. Three 5G-centric technologies — Passive IoT, RedCap and NB-IoT — will support 100 billion connections in the next decade. Together, 5.5G will enhance many industry use cases. For example, future remote operations will be more precise, and quality checks in the manufactory production line will be faster and more accurate. Utility management will be more efficient and predictable. Remote healthcare monitoring will provide more visual images to aid diagnosis. With Passive IoT-enabled devices for measurement and monitoring, agriculture production will improve. Positioning and tracking in logistics will be more real-time and reliable.

Huawei believes that ICT is pivotal to building a greener world and promoting the sustainable development of society at large. In this case, the development of green technology and system-level innovation has a significant and positive impact on energy efficiency. With that in mind, the ITU-T has adopted Network Carbon data/energy intensity (NCIe) as the unified energy efficiency metric to guide the industry's green development roadmap.

Huawei has therefore developed network solutions for green sites, networks and network operations, as well as more efficient and low-carbon energy solutions. Huawei also works with its ecosystem partners to deploy more energy-efficient ICT infrastructure to make ubiquitous connectivity a greener possibility.

So, as we approach the intelligent world of 2030, the industry should continue working together to set the stage for 5.5G deployment. These measures include setting standards and promoting fundamental technological research; securing more spectrum for ultra-large bandwidth, products, ecosystems and applications to ensure 5.5G success; preparing for 5.5G with mature networks, devices and chips where networks and devices are upgraded to deliver 10 Gbit/s experiences; collaborating within ecosystems to build a thriving 5.5G ecosystem; and ensuring developers continue to work on groundbreaking applications.

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